May 14, 2024

Wyden, Duckworth, Hirono Call for More Funding of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai’i, today urged the Senate Appropriations Committee  to provide increased funding–at least $32 million–for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHS) in FY 2025 to ensure these highly-trained frontline workers are always ready and fully-deployable to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans. Currently, the PHS is the only uniformed service without a budget line item dedicated to service operations and maintenance. 

PHS personnel serve as the Department of Health and Human Services’s primary public health emergency asset both domestically and globally. These service members have been on the frontlines to ensure that Americans receive lifeline support during public health emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak, the September 11 attacks, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Without sufficient funding, America’s ability to respond to future health crises will be hampered.

“The PHS, as one of the eight uniformed services and the only service with an exclusive focus on public health, is at the forefront of protecting our nation’s health. Its dedicated personnel, serving in 800 locations across the country and overseas, are the unsung heroes tirelessly working to ensure that Americans receive necessary medical and public health support in their daily lives and during times of crises particularly in underserved and vulnerable populations,” wrote the lawmakers to Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., chair and ranking member of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee. 

The lawmakers continued, “The significant funding shortfall for the United States Public Health Service poses a significant threat to the readiness and response capabilities of the Corps, and we are disappointed that the President’s Budget does not include a request specifically for PHS, as it has in previous years.” 

This letter is supported by the Commissioned Officers Association (COA), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and the Reserve Organization of America (ROA). 

The text of the letter is here.

Wyden and Duckworth have been leading the fight in the Senate to ensure the PHS has the funding it needs to ensure a highly-trained, always-ready, fully-deployable national public health service. Last year, the senators introduced the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Operations and Readiness Act, which would authorize dedicated annual funding to the USPHS Commissioned Corps. They also introduced in 2023 the Parity for Public Health Service Ready Reserve Act, which would empower the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to recruit, retain and mobilize an elite sustainment force of Public Health Service uniformed service members in response to public health emergencies.